During his heydays, jailed RJD chief Lalu Prasad was hailed as ‘god’ of the downtrodden in undivided Bihar. Now, in arguably the toughest battle of his life, the mercurial Bihar strongman is having glimpses of god in judges trying the fodder scam cases against him.
“Aap log judge hai. Aap bhagwan log hai” (You are judge. You are God),” Lalu, hands folded in reverence, told presiding judge AK Mishra during a brief appearance in court through video-conferencing from the the Birsa Munda central jail.
Lalu is in jail after he was convicted last week in one of the six fodder scam cases and sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment.
Throughout his political career, Lalu has been known for his rustic wit and charm and has delivered some memorable speeches in Parliament, specially while presenting the Railway budget as Union minister. And before his fall from grace, it was his earthy humour which endeared him to his fans and foes alike. Even when he took on his opponents, Lalu used his wit extensively, generously lacing it with sarcasm gleaned from rustic vocabulary.
However, in front of the judge on Tuesday, Lalu was a picture of humility personified.
As soon as Lalu appeared before Mishra in the case RC 68 (A)/96, the judge asked the former chief minister whether he was facing any problems in jail. Lalu replied in the negative, saying that he had no problem and that the video conferencing facility was a great relief as it helped him avoid the maddening crowd and prying eyes of media.
In the informal interaction, the judge told Lalu that he was a grass root-level leader as well as high and mighty from whom people expected a lot.
It was then that Lalu compared the judge to god, which evoked a smile from Mishra. For once, Lalu did manage to work his magic.
But the brief interaction of 2-3 minutes ended with the judge recording his attendance in the court’s register and Lalu making a quick exit from the room.
Once Lalu left the scene, other co-accused of the case including JD (U) MP Jagdish Sharma appeared before the video-linked trial proceedings one by one.
Soliciting their cooperation in the ongoing trial, the court said it would conclude the trial latest by March 31, 2014 if they cooperated with the court.
The court after recording the appearances of the accused fixed November 25, as the next date of hearing.
It also recorded the testimony of a former official of the Indian Airlines, JP Verma, produced by the CBI as prosecution witness.
The instant case relates to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.62 crore from the Chaibasa treasury during the period 1992-93. The case, which is running at prosecution evidence stage, involves 75 accused out of which seven died, two pleaded guilty and three became approver (prosecution witness).
Out of six cases registered in 1996 against Lalu by the CBI, one had been disposed of with Prasad’s conviction on September 30, one is pending in Bihar and the other four are pending here in Ranchi.